Increasing the length of time people who lose their jobs will have to wait before they can claim benefits will not help them find work, and risks pushing unemployed people into the arms of loan sharks, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) warns.
From Autumn 2014 anyone who is unlucky enough to lose their job will have to wait seven days before they can make a claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA), according to a consultation published by the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC). The SSAC advises the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on benefits issues.
TUC say that according to the Government’s own impact assessment the change means that people will lose £40 in benefits they would have received under the current system. That system asks that people who lose their jobs wait three days before becoming eligible to claim unemployment benefits, rather than the seven days waiting period being proposed by the coalition government.
The impact assessment, which forms part of the consultation published by the SSAC, suggests that the change in the waiting period for benefits will affect as many as 1.3 million people a year.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“Forcing people to wait for job support will not help anyone find work. Instead it will make them easy prey for loan sharks. This has nothing to do with making work pay. It is simply a mean attack on the welfare safety net and could affect any one of us.
“It won’t matter how long anyone has had a job or how much they have contributed to the system, they will all suffer the same penalty. The vast majority of people who lose a job thankfully find another one within a few months, but this is when they need help to tide them over between jobs. That is why we have a national insurance system to which we contribute when we are in work – a system that is now under attack.”
Paul Gray, Chair of the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC), said:
“This proposal has history. An identical change was put forward by the Government in 1998 but subsequently dropped. Then, as now, an understandable desire to ensure limited public resources are used most effectively was the main driver for the proposal. However, as benefits are now being paid fortnightly in arrears, it is important that we understand the full impact of this change – particularly on the most vulnerable. We are keen to hear from anyone who is able to provide information about the consequences of this change”.
The change is expected to come into force from October and anyone wishing to have their say are asked to submit evidence to the SSAC (pdf) by 13 June 2014.
Source – Welfare News Service, 23 May 2014
By Helen Sims
As I write this I am recovering from what we campaigners call ‘Brown Envelope Disorder’ – or ‘White Envelope Disorder’ (since it applies in equal measures now). It is what happens to a disabled or ill [benefit claimant] when a brown or white envelope appears on the doormat, particularly those marked ‘DWP’ –Department for Work and Pensions.
I was upstairs, waiting for my painkillers to kick in, when the letterbox went. For an ‘everyday’ person, it is normality. It is part of life. However, if you are disabled or an ill benefit claimant, living under the constant threat of an ATOS assessment or benefit sanction, [the sound of the letterbox] immediately causes the blood pressure to rise, and panic to kick in.
I’m sat on the bottom of the stairs, shaking and looked at the brown envelope (marked DWP) on the mat. Even though I know (rationally) that ATOS assessment envelopes are usually white, and that I am not due to be assessed for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – the government’s replacement for Disability Living Allowance – for at least a year, the effect on me (and so many other ill and disabled people) is a reaction of pure fear. I sat there, unable to move, almost as if I was frozen to the spot. Rationality doesn’t come into it anymore. They play games, change dates, change criteria; so even if you think you know what’s what, (and when), for me (and so many others) the fear is still there. My heart begins to pound so loudly that I can hear it in my ears, and my palms begin to sweat. The rational part of me says ‘pick it up and open it. It’ll be fine’. The vulnerable, anxiety prone, part of me knows it is coming.
If I want to keep my life the way it is, I will have to go through a Disability Assessment for PIP, which is stacked against me. I will have to justify my right to the small amount of support I get. I will have to justify myself, my existence, my attempt at as normal a life as I can. I will have to sit there while someone judges me, and asks me leading, (unfair) questions, that are designed to deprive me of support and the things that able-bodied people take for granted.
I was born with Cerebral Palsy, and cannot walk or stand unaided. I suffer more or less constant pain, anxiety and depression – not to mention a few other things. The anxiety and depression have been made worse by this government and the media’s portrayal of disabled people as ‘scroungers’ and fakers. They have deliberately misled the public on the levels of benefit fraud, and we are paying the price.
I continued to sit on the bottom of the stairs, with all this going through my head. I feel worthless, and I know that I will be stripped of my Disability Living Allowance by the transition to Personal Independence Payment. I know that I am luckier than some. I have my husband (and his Pension Credit) to help us live, but for me it’s about independence. It’s about being able to behave like a ‘normal’ wife.
As things stand, I can help my husband pay the bills, I can take myself to the doctors or hospital appointments, I can go out (when I feel well enough), and see friends. I can feel like a ‘normal’ person. If they take my DLA, they take all that too – and I have spent years fighting to keep self-esteem and independence and to build a life for myself. I can’t lose it!
At this point, I am beginning to hyperventilate. ‘Be rational,’ I try to tell myself – ‘be RATIONAL!’ I fear the assessment itself even more than the consequences of it. Sitting on the stairs, I’m imagining all sorts of things. The assessor’s eyes look at me, and judging me. She looks tidy, she looks together, she tells herself. Yes I can, and I’m so lucky. What isn’t so lucky, is that I can’t sleep due to pain and anxiety….even though I’m so very tired.
I’m tired by life, and I’ve been made even more tired by government lies, and persecution, and the feeling that I have to struggle even more than I do already. Why is this happening to me? Why is this happening to any of us? Haven’t we been through enough? I start to cry. Eventually, mid panic attack, I ring my sister, who tells me to breathe deeply, and reminds me that whatever this government says or does, I am a person…and I am worth something. She tells me that if it is the assessment, I’ll handle it, and that they have no right to make me feel like this…in my own home. I tell her I’ll open the envelope and call her back, which I do.
It turns out, that is just a letter confirming my benefit amount, and my level of claim. I curse myself, knowing that I should have checked with a fellow campaigner before panicking, but like I said rationality doesn’t come into it anymore; and besides, there are so many other people like me (and worse off) that don’t have the campaigners to turn to, and don’t have the information at hand. Who cares about how they feel? This government certainly doesn’t!
As my heavy breathing subsides, I go back upstairs, and I’m physically sick in the toilet bowl. No one should be going through this. It is psychological torture, and I’ve had enough. This government needs to be held to account for its actions. There needs to be a proper impact assessment done on the Welfare Reform policy, because what I went through today is only a small part of it. It is causing pain, suffering, panic, malnutrition, isolation, homelessness, and even suicides. Somebody, somewhere, needs to make it stop… Now!
Source – Welfare News Service, 22 March 2014